OCEANSIDE — Parents and preteens learned the risks of underage drinking and steps to help prevent it at a forum held at Cesar Chavez Middle School on March 23.
The forum organized by North Coastal Prevention Coalition and Vista Community Clinic was presented in separate English and Spanish sessions.
Each group was shown a short video. Then panelists shared their personal stories about the problems of underage drinking. A councilor, school administrator, police officer, member of MADD, and high school student all shared how they have observed the ill effects of alcohol.
Damaris Torres, a Vista High senior and North Coastal Prevention Youth Coalition or NCPYC member, presented in English. “Underage drinking is a big part of the youth community,” Damaris said.
Forty percent of Oceanside high school students who were recently surveyed said that they used alcohol or drugs in the past 30 days.
“It’s illegal,” Damaris said. “I want to pass that across.”
Araceli Reyes, a Vista High senior and NCPYC member, shared her story in Spanish. She said she lost her uncles at ages 40 and 41. “They both died close together in February and March,” Araceli said. “They had been drinking all their lives.”
Her uncles began drinking when they were teenagers.
Araceli said she got the news about her first uncle’s death on her birthday. “It made an impact I will not forget,” Araceli said. “It really affects the family.”
Araceli also shared ways to get information and help. She said speaking to her family, teachers and counselors really helped her.
Oceanside police officer Joe Torres described the police scene when a pair of local teens died in an alcohol related automobile accident on Halloween night. He said the incident affected the whole community.
Agustin Ortiz, a counselor at Palomar Family Counseling, reminded parents that it is crucial for them to stay involved with their children.
Eloisa Orozco, the executive director of MADD, reiterated that point. “The solution is the parents,” Orozco said. “They are the tools. They don’t always realize how much their children listen to them.”
After the speakers shared their stories there was time for audience questions.
The evening closed with parents and teens stating what they will do to take a stand against underage drinking.
Kids, moms and dads stood up and said they will report drunk driving, not drink, smoke or take drugs, and show their children how to have fun without drugs.